Folded Paper

What image comes to mind when you imagine a person who likes origami (the art of paper folding, in case someone doesn’t know)? I can tell you I did not envision my nine year old son’s face. I was wrong. I’m not even sure how he was exposed to the idea, but for about two weeks now he has been rapidly draining our supply of construction paper.

His usual approach to tasks is wildly haphazard. Impulsive is an understatement for his personality. This new interest in origami has shown me a side of him I have been desperately trying and failing to find. He used the search engine on the old phone our kids use as a tablet to find instructions for folding ideas he dreamed up, read them carefully, and followed each step with painstaking care and accuracy. On his own he realized that construction paper isn’t square like origami paper and carefully measured and cut to create his own squares. Our house is filling with paper dinosaurs and weapons.

As parents and teachers, often we have a tendency to pre-judge our children. Daydreamy, wild, stubborn, unfocused, the list of paper boxes we create continues. We wrap our own ideas and expectations around our children like bubble wrap in preparation to ship them off into the world we recognize, ensuring they can’t move or bounce around as if their value might go down for a few scuffs and bruises.

The truth is our children are not commodities to be packed into paper boxes and shipped in whatever direction we choose. They are beautiful, unique, and surprising souls, folding their own lives into the image they choose. Sometimes they will fold incorrectly and leave marks on the surface of their lives. Sometimes they will cut or fasten in the wrong place, leaving nicks and scrapes. Sometimes their delicate constructions will be dropped and stepped on and have to be reinflated and smoothed. Sometimes they will fashion themselves into many different forms before discovering the exact set of folds required for the structure they are meant to have. The finished product will have been wrinkled, folded, torn, stapled, taped, glued, and crushed, but without all of that, it could not be the unique masterpiece of a human soul.

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